Opposition predicts revolution in Iran: Former minister says popular uprising will sweep Islamic leadership from power to save country from 'catastrophe'

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AS IRAN yesterday marked the fifteenth anniversary of the Islamic revolution, a leading opposition politician in Tehran predicted a popular uprising that would sweep the country's clerical leaders from power.

In a telephone interview from Tehran, Dariush Foruhar, the 65-year-old leader of the Iran Nation Party (INP), one of Iran's oldest secular political organisations, said: 'New forces, a nation-wide, popular movement is ready to go into action to wipe out the present oppressive, dictatorial system and replace it with a real democratic one capable of saving Iran from catastrophe'.

Mr Foruhar, who was jailed during the Shah's rule and served as a minister in the first post-revolutionary government, has become increasingly outspoken about the regime in recent months. The clergy has, however, taken no measures against him and he was allowed, for instance, to make a recent visit to Europe.

In the interview, he painted a gloomy picture of Iran's economic, political and social situation and urged the clerical rulers to 'smoothly vacate the place, allow a popular, democratic regime to take over and save the nation from the abyss it had been plunged into since the power-hungry mullahs grabbed power, isolated the country and threw it into the darkest of the ages'.

He also accused the regime of having 'diverted from the revolution's noble goals of making Iran a strong, prosperous, developed nation with its particular place in the world'.

'With the dictatorship's wings flat open over the nation, the authorities, crushing savagely the people's basic rights to happiness, to civic and democratic freedom of the parties, the press, writing and thinking, have alienated themselves from the people. History shows that such dictatorial, unpopular, oppressive regimes can never last,' said Mr Foruhar.

'There is massive unemployment, a shortage of almost everything in the fields of health and education, wide-ranging corruption, huge bureaucracy, overspending and an ever-growing gap between the poor and the new rich. The authorities turn a deaf ear to the people's pleas, there is nation-wide social unrest and Iran's industries and agriculture is being destroyed. A strangulating, oppressive central reactionary system, based on the policy of divide and rule, especially among Iran's different religions and tribes, has completely discredited the present regime,' said Mr Foruhar.

In his anniversary speech, President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said yesterday that Iran's economy was 'the strongest in the world'. 'We have reached such a degree of self sufficiency that even without revenues from oil (which account for more than 90 per cent of the country's exports) we can manage to survive happily,' the President told a Tehran crowd, officially estimated as millions strong.

As Mr Rafsanjani was insisting that the clerical leadership still enjoyed the 'full and unequivocal support of Iran's and the world's Muslims', Mr Foruhar said the regime was 'totally and absolutely' unpopular, having lost the people's support.